Reporters Without Borders is dismayed by today’s fatal shooting of Anja Niedringhaus, a German photographer with the Associated Press, while she was covering the delivery of ballots to polling stations in Tanai, a district in the eastern province of Khost near the border with Pakistan.
Kathy Gannon, a Canadian journalist who is the AP’s special regional correspondent for Pakistan and Afghanistan, was wounded in the shooting. The local authorities arrested the man who shot them, who was a uniformed police officer.
“We offer our heartfelt condolences to Anja Niedringhaus’s family and friends,” said Benjamin Ismaïl, the head of the Reporters Without Borders Asia-Pacific desk. “The shooting has highlighted the permanent and ubiquitous danger for reporters in some regions of Afghanistan.
“It is all the more shocking for apparently being the work of a policeman who should have been protecting Afghan and foreign journalists. We call on the authorities to do everything possible to guarantee the safety of journalists, whose role is crucial at the height of the electoral process.”
Ismaïl added: “By imposing a climate of terror, armed groups such as the Taliban, the Haqqani network and Al-Qaeda are trying to get as many observers as possible to flee and to force the closure of large numbers of polling stations – all this in order to undermine the presidential election’s legitimacy.”
Aged 48 and an experienced press photographer, Niedringhaus was part of a group of journalists who were accompanying members of the Independent Election Commission of Afghanistan (IEC) as they delivered ballot material to polling stations.
Mobarez Khodran, the Khost governor’s spokesman, said the journalists had just arrived at a police station and were still in their car when, at around 10:45 a.m., a police officer, “Naghibullah”, opened fire on them, killing Niedringhaus and injuring Gannon.
According to the information obtained by Reporters Without Borders, Gannon is in a stable condition in a nearby hospital. The police officer who had shot the journalists was surrounded by other police officers and arrested. The district of Tanai borders the Pakistani district of North Waziristan, a Haqqani network and Al-Qaeda stronghold.
Niedringhaus began her career as a photographer by working for a local German newspaper. After covering the fall of the Berlin Wall for the European Pressphoto Agency, she specialized in war reporting and in 2002 joined the Associated Press, covering conflicts in Israel, Palestine, Pakistan, Iraq and Afghanistan.
Reporters Without Borders reiterates the utmost importance of protecting the journalists who are in Afghanistan to cover tomorrow’s presidential election. Nils Horner, a journalist with Swedish and British dual nationality, was gunned down
in a well-protected district in central Kabul on 11 March, shortly after the Taliban announced their intention to disrupt the election.
On 2 April, Reporters Without Borders issued a call for the reinforcement of measures to protect journalists
and prevent risks.
Reporters Without Borders recently issued a report about media freedom in Afghanistan
. Entitled “Presidential election in Afghanistan: local media on the front line,” it condemned the prevailing impunity for violence against the media and made recommendations to the authorities for combatting it.
Afghanistan is ranked 128th out of 180 countries in the 2014 Reporters Without Borders press freedom index